QU tennis player Dane Mechali competes at the Maccabi Games
By Michele Barletta
Where and when did you compete on the world stage?
It was end of July, early August when my brother and I travelled to Budapest, Hungary to compete in the 2019 summer Maccabi Games.
Can you elaborate on what the Maccabi Games are?
The Maccabi games, in its simplest explanation, is the Jewish olympics. It’s held every four years just like the Olympics and it’s where athletes of different ages from all around the world compete against each other. it is the third largest sporting event in the world in terms of participation. Just like the Olympic Games there’s a vast variety of many sports. Only Jewish people are eligible to compete in these games.
How did you land up being selected to play there?
I competed in the 2010 Winter Maccabi Games as well, which was held in Israel. The way I was selected for that was, a tournament was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, where all Jewish tennis players from around the country got to compete for a place in the team. So I travelled there from my hometown of Port Elizabeth, and I was then selected as a member of the South African Maccabi Tennis team. So from previously playing for them, the South African Maccabi delegation contacted me to participate once again.
What role did Quincy University play in supporting you throughout this journey?
My coach at the time, Mark Scheuring, Father Bill Spencer OFM, and former QU president Phil Conover, all played a seriously important part in me attending the Maccabi Games. I first went to my coach Mark and discussed this opportunity with him and what ways I could try get some funds and they were all super excited and happy for me to represent QU and my country on an international level at this once in a lifetime opportunity. They were all very helpful in coming together and helping fundraise and support my trip to the games. A big thank you to them.
What was the experience like, being in Budapest, meeting all these new people and playing against some really talented players?
Incredible. It was very eye-opening. The fact that we all had something in common even though we didn’t know anything about each other was very special to see. Even though we were competing against each other, we still all came together and celebrated the real meaning of the Maccabi Games. I made friends that I’m still in touch with to this day.
Do you feel like you benefitted from this experience and how?
I definitely benefitted from this experience on both a religious, social and athletic stand point. Athletically it was super tough competition, and putting myself up against some of the best players from around the world was interesting to see where I match up against them. I ended up finishing 5th in the men’s open category which was an awesome achievement. Not being extremely religious, it was nice to see so many jewish people, embracing the religion in the own personal ways, some more religious than others. And everyone coming together was really nice to be apart of.
Obviously, representing not only Quincy University, but your home country as well, must have been an extremely proud moment. Can you describe that feeling?
Surreal. Something that a lot of people dream of is to represent their country in whichever aspect that they can, and I was blessed and fortunate enough to be able to do so. You don’t really think about it in the moment, but reflecting back on this experience really solidifies the feeling of representing my country.
What was your favorite and most memorable moment of the trip?
There was a tour that our team went on to the Danube River, where during the Holocaust, Jewish people were tied together and one of the soldiers would shoot one of them, and then both would fall into the river, causing the other to drown. My brother and I stood at this same place and saw memorials and old shoes that represented these people. Standing there and taking a picture was very emotional and a big standout in my trip, along with many other amazing experiences.